Where You Live In One Single Photograph
February 28, 2003 7:10 AM   Subscribe

If You Could Choose But One Photograph Or Picture of the place where you live, unadorned and true to its spirit, capable of giving those who had never been there a shadow of what it feel like to actually live there and see there, what image, whether oblique or direct, moody or humorous, would you show and stand by? This photograph, by Luiz Carvalho, is most definitely my own city, Lisbon. [I found him through American Photo Journalist's outstanding website, which I highly recommend as a starting point for those who wish to join in the fun. The "Analyzed" feature, incidentally, is well worth browsing.]
posted by MiguelCardoso (64 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
How'd I know this was linked by you, Migs, before my eye even tracked down that far? ; . )
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:16 AM on February 28, 2003

abelardo morrell is one of my favourite photographers. unfortunately i can't find the camera obscura taken inside the park plaza hotel, but here is a (WORKSAFE) camera obscura that illustrates the bedroom community that is my neighborhood. (the houses are right down the street from where i live.)
posted by pxe2000 at 7:27 AM on February 28, 2003

Dang, Miguel, I'd just decided that nothing was happening on MeFi, and I was going to get some work done. What a great question (and almost impossible to answer). Would it be the ocean, the mountains, the woods, the tourists? To me there's one view that sums up the spirit of this island, and I finally found a reasonable version of it on the Internet.

I live up the hill to the right of the large green patch in the left center of the photo. Stop by sometime, if you ever get on this side of the Atlantic.
posted by LeLiLo at 7:45 AM on February 28, 2003

Wow, I didn't know "The Exorcist" was actually shot in Lisbon.
posted by 111 at 7:52 AM on February 28, 2003

What I didn't know was that Lisbon was black and white. I'd always assumed it came in color, like Barcelona or Paris.
posted by LeLiLo at 8:03 AM on February 28, 2003

Difficult. It'd have to be a cross between Tee-Shirted men standing outside Pubs, The Dark Satanic Mills, Countryside, and Obviously... More Pubs.
posted by seanyboy at 8:09 AM on February 28, 2003

no, Paris is in black and white. Don't you know anything?

(and don't even TALK to me about "Amelie.")
posted by Vidiot at 8:16 AM on February 28, 2003

This was always New Orleans to me.
posted by Katemonkey at 8:21 AM on February 28, 2003

definitive lisbon photo!
posted by sgt.serenity at 8:21 AM on February 28, 2003

And why didn't I think of it before. Much as I hate him, Lowry gets quite close to Halifax.
posted by seanyboy at 8:26 AM on February 28, 2003

Marine Drive is the classic shot for Bombay (Mumbai). I wish I could find a night time picture to show the queen's necklacke it forms when the street lights are turned on.
posted by riffola at 8:48 AM on February 28, 2003

Katemonkey: forgive my solecism, but that photograph really looks real. I was there, believe me. Same with pxe2000's photo, plep's landscape, riffola's faded vista and seanyboy's apparently banal images. All bring the place through and it's definitely something to do with the light. Isn't it?

I have nothing against stereotypes, as standard, touristy images do convey a reality of sorts - so much so that clichés also means photographs. But still...

111's and lelilo's comments about Lisbon first surprised me but then Vidiot's classic photo and his reference to Amélie (which, I agree, is postcardy to the point of being unbearable) reassured me. Lisbon, the "white city" (as in Alain Tanner's film) is indeed light-splashed. But it isn't in colour - too much light; too many shadows. Other, less sunny cities - such as London or Dublin - I'd imagine in colour. Even Manchester, England, where I lived for 8 years, I'd say was red and yellow - or grey, rather than black and white. Perhaps it's a question of contrast and colour saturation.

It's very difficult to see what you look at every day - but this is surely the key to conveying the atmosphere of a place - what it feels like to wake up and walk about there. As if it were here, so to speak.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:53 AM on February 28, 2003

Pike Place Market at night, Seattle, Washington.
posted by yonderboy at 8:58 AM on February 28, 2003

If You Could Choose But One Photograph Or Picture of the place where you live...

I would need a photo of a garish, brightly lit McDonald's next to an abandoned strip-mall next to a razed field with a "FOR SALE OR LEASE / ZONED COMMERCIAL" sign on it.

I'll get right on that photo. Shouldn't be any problem at all.
posted by Shane at 8:59 AM on February 28, 2003

Not sure this is the definitive shot, but it should appear on the top 10 for Seattle. Plus, it was assembled by our very own Kokogiak. In particular, I like that it's panoramic, gives a concrete sense of historical depth and physical breadth, feature the city from the water, and uses technology to reveal something that's always been there but is hard to see otherwise. Nice work, Koko (you mind if I call you Koko, do you?). Wish you could also see the cascades in the shot since they're an integral part of my experience, but hey.
posted by daver at 9:02 AM on February 28, 2003

doh! Don't mind! Don't Mind!
posted by daver at 9:03 AM on February 28, 2003

I'm from Atlanta and I think this sums it up.
posted by toothless joe at 9:13 AM on February 28, 2003

Really interesting musings, Miguel. I'd never thought about the notion of a city being "black-and-white" or "color." But it's interesting how you can separate them out: Nice is color, Berlin is black-and-white, Rome is color, Seattle is black-and-white, Washington DC is black-and-white, Saigon is color, Istanbul is black-and-white, Chicago is black-and-white, Krakow is color, Prague is black-and-white, Atlanta is color, Venice is black-and-white, Houston is color, et cetera.

I can't decide if New York, my current hometown, is black-and-white or color. I'm leaning toward B&W.

(Damn Google Image Search isn't working for me.)
posted by Vidiot at 9:28 AM on February 28, 2003

scant available, but out of my choices — apples, same-day-weddings, monster trucks and outhouses — i gotta go with my beloved public library.
posted by steef at 9:32 AM on February 28, 2003

Maybe it's 'cause I'm sitting here slightly hungover from a night that began here last night, but nothing says Toronto for me like this place.
posted by gompa at 9:38 AM on February 28, 2003

toothless joe....

while i concede your point about our storied traffic, i think this photo better represents the city of atlanta on a good day. or perhaps an image from howell mill road, showing the ghosts that haunt us.
posted by grabbingsand at 9:54 AM on February 28, 2003

Halifax: site of the world's largest man-made explosion prior to Hiroshima, the easternmost rail-connected port on the North American continent, and home to the this. The Citadel is a star-shaped National Historic Park perched high atop the city, and a prominent landmark for us Haligonians.
posted by debralee at 10:02 AM on February 28, 2003

Miguel - excellent post, as always. I've always liked the idea of using the web for this exact purpose, and had intended to put up a similar post when I got around to it.

Anyhoo, I suppose these photos are instantly recognisable to me, and would be to you too, if you ever found yourself on the west coast of Clare (Ireland). In fact, the first one seems to have become such a touristy cliché, that's it's probably instantly recognisable to a lot of people!
posted by Doozer at 10:02 AM on February 28, 2003

oooh, nice pic from Woodruff Park, grabbingsand. I used to live a couple hundred feet away from where that was taken.
posted by Vidiot at 10:03 AM on February 28, 2003

no, Paris is in black and white. Don't you know anything?

I guess not. I figured that since the Nazis had been kicked out, maybe the place had cheered up a bit.
posted by LeLiLo at 10:10 AM on February 28, 2003

Nope Daver, I don't mind at all - Koko is fine. Thanks for the nod to my Seattle panorama - that thing has some incredible legs. It's been making the email rounds for several months now, and still isn't dying down.

Answering Miguel's question, I'd have to point to another Seattle photo I took not long ago, mostly because it's right out the window down the hall, and is something I see many times every day (from the offices of amazon.com). It may be a cliche viewpoint, but it really is Seattle to me.
posted by kokogiak at 10:40 AM on February 28, 2003

doesn't seem to be a lot of shots of Lodi, NJ floating around the web.

but i guess this captures my current feelings for living here:
the guardrail behind Satin Dolls (aka Bada Bing)
courtesy of the sopranos on location
posted by goddam at 11:00 AM on February 28, 2003

Portland, Oregon.

There's the requisite tourism photo, the futile attempt to soak up the sun, and the
Hawthorne Bridge at night.

But nothing feels quite so Portland (while not photos) as the artwork of the McMenamins chain of brewpubs. Examples: painted brewing kettles, a shed, and the murals at the Kennedy School. It's fun to have a local mythology built upon beer, with our Portland deities the Ruby witch, the Hammerheads and the Black Rabbit.
posted by billder at 11:04 AM on February 28, 2003

This is probably the definitive image of my hometown. You can see a bit of my house in this pic.
posted by Lynsey at 11:11 AM on February 28, 2003

Smelly Lake Ferguson. Cement levee. Dead casino. Old power lines.

Ah, Greenville.
posted by delapohl at 11:55 AM on February 28, 2003

I guess this pretty much sums it up. Jealous?
posted by squealy at 12:05 PM on February 28, 2003

I don't know if this picture is representative of the whole town, or the whole experience of living here, but it certainly represents my experience living here: Augusta, Maine's state capital. It's freezing cold, there's snow and ice everywhere, and the lights at the bottom right-hand corner of the building are my office; as usual, we're working late.
posted by JanetLand at 12:34 PM on February 28, 2003

i always loved the look of a typical backyard in central Copenhagen, rather than the tourist image of the little mermaid.
posted by dabitch at 12:49 PM on February 28, 2003

Nothing says "New York" like Grand Central.
posted by languagehat at 12:52 PM on February 28, 2003

I can't decide between these two pictures of Tacoma.
posted by ukamikanasi at 12:56 PM on February 28, 2003

Columbus, Ohio via Google.

This post just brings home to me what my wife has been trying to get me to see for months. We live an an unremarkable corner of a flat, grey parking lot that is trying to pass for a city. Hail from America's Fifth fattest city!

The Missus is right. We need to get out of here.

You people who live someplace beautiful are a bunch of dicks. Get ready for a tubby new neighbor.
posted by putzface_dickman at 1:01 PM on February 28, 2003

Spent a lot of time in the Fulton Pub, billder (hell, it was right next door to my house!). Couldn't agree more. Spent a lot of time in Tacoma too, Ukami, I was thinking more of the K-Mart on 6th and Orachard st, but maybe that's just me.
posted by daver at 1:14 PM on February 28, 2003

squealy: Jesus, not Sneinton! Why not just take a picture of St. Ann's while you're at it?
posted by Katemonkey at 1:18 PM on February 28, 2003

My first eye-candy in Dallas, Tx. Anyone know which movie used a similar shot several years ago?
posted by thomcatspike at 1:24 PM on February 28, 2003

Monument Avenue has been the epitome of Richmond, Virginia since Reconstruction. I've always felt that this photo (yes, that's the Lee monument back there) captures the spirit of our city better than any other. Bleak, but honest - even today.

Photo courtesy of the Cook Collection, which is fascinating enough to deserve it's own FPP.
posted by junkbox at 1:29 PM on February 28, 2003

My college town, Socorro, NM. I can't count the number of nights I spent at El Camino, studying over a cup of coffee and a plate of green chile cheese fries.

This is what my hometown, Henderson, NV, looks like now, more or less. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I was unable to find any pictures of what it looked like when I was a kid. Weird, but every time I go back, there's less and less of Henderson, and more and more of, well... something else, I guess.
posted by vorfeed at 1:30 PM on February 28, 2003

This photo is Boston.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:57 PM on February 28, 2003

This is the best picture of Oxford that I could find.
posted by salmacis at 2:01 PM on February 28, 2003

This is probably the image that defines the town I grew up in will be seen historically. It's not bad, but it's an outsider's perspective; most people living there don't see it that way. This one pretty much captures what it was like growing up there; stupid houses, fake lawn deer, mini vans. [waxes nostalgic]

Of the Seattle photos, Kokogiac's view from Amazon captures the spirit fairly well.
posted by Hildago at 2:31 PM on February 28, 2003

I have not lived in my hometown, Birmingham, for about 18 years. This representation of it had me reminiscing so much, it fair brought a little tear to my eye.
posted by Fat Buddha at 3:03 PM on February 28, 2003

My own best photo of Pittsburgh.
posted by tss at 5:22 PM on February 28, 2003

Grew up in this city but this scene and this one are pretty close to where I live now. Despite the bucolic look, it's less than twenty miles from here.
I spent about ten years living in scenic splendor just a five minute drive from here.
I am considering a job that would entail moving to a place where you live free or die.
posted by madamjujujive at 5:44 PM on February 28, 2003

Taipei. Or maybe Taipei.
posted by Poagao at 7:24 PM on February 28, 2003

Denton, Texas: home of CORN-KITS!!!! (in STEREO for your visual pleasure)

The sign is visible for miles, especially at night.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:00 PM on February 28, 2003

It's not my hometown, but this picture smells like Kyoto. Wood, stone, bamboo and kabetsuchi (earthen wall plaster).
posted by planetkyoto at 12:14 AM on March 1, 2003

I mean, Kyoto is not my hometown, but the picture WAS taken in Kyoto. Carry on.
posted by planetkyoto at 1:21 AM on March 1, 2003

katemonkey: no not Sneinton, but Hyson Green, which I guess supports my point. It ain't lovely, but it's home.
posted by squealy at 3:52 AM on March 1, 2003

Well, our courthouse is rather odd, considering it's in Northeast Texas....

I wish I had a picture of the gigantic dairy cow statues we have here in town, but I can't seem to find one online.
posted by bradth27 at 7:04 AM on March 1, 2003

Poagao: Thank you—those really do capture Taipei, and they really take me back.

sgt.: amazing pictures, and the guy on the right is truly scary, he looks like he's eviscerating someone or something.

Great thread.
posted by languagehat at 8:48 AM on March 1, 2003

This is the best I could find online; this is the requisite aerial shot; this painting, despite portraying a spot a block from my house, has nothing to do with the Wilmington I live in.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:08 AM on March 1, 2003

Er, by "the guy on the right" I mean, of course, "the guy on the right in the last picture you linked ('truer still')." Sigh. To make up for my carelessness, here's more NYC:

Above Fifth Avenue

Madison Square

And the building I most wish were still around, Stanford White's Madison Square Garden
posted by languagehat at 11:45 AM on March 1, 2003

I've been looking around for pictures that perfectly encapsulate my little corner of Queens, NY, but haven't found any yet. Perhaps I should get out there and snap a few of my own.

There are interesting things galore, from little Greek coffeehouses to piano-maker's moldering mansions to subway stations...the splendid Art Deco Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia (where the Pan Am flying boats took off, bound for Lisbon), complete with WPA murals....and of course one of the most beautiful bridges I know.
posted by Vidiot at 3:04 PM on March 1, 2003

yeah, i knew what you were saying language,
photos of ny are always welcome here , especially harlem.
i liked the way you can see what he's looking at reflected in the window behind him, cowering in front of the angry bank of scotland god.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:33 PM on March 1, 2003

This webcam is 5mins from my flat and has quite a cool view of the bay.
But these pics I took in the summer just seem to make Cardiff stand out from all the places I've lived.
Here and Here! [Pics are quite big!]

Except Kingston, Jamaica.
Here's a bad Panoramic shot I did one cloudy afternoon.
posted by bhell13 at 9:00 AM on March 2, 2003

Sorry to double post but just found these and had to share.
Urban75's Welsh collection
posted by bhell13 at 9:12 AM on March 2, 2003

I've been searching for a few days for a picture that captures where I live but to no avail. So I'll just link to a photo that barely misses the apartment building I live in(it's a little more to the left).
posted by snez at 8:00 PM on March 2, 2003

Thanks snez for late-posting - and everyone else. I had no idea that people here would actually find real-looking photographs. I feel as if I've gone on a incredibly realistic trip; being able to stare into the pictures and imagine myself there. I'm dumbfounded and humbled by your honesty. :)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:50 PM on March 2, 2003

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